Thursday, July 21, 2011

Content Placement – An Overlooked Web Usability Rule

How a company presents itself online tells much about it. It could tell us if we shall trust it, if it is well organized, if we could expect some customer service, if it will respond to our inquiries or to put it in plain simple English. It will tell us if it cares.

Now it is a must that any company has its own website, a location to find them online. Small companies may struggle a bit at first to create the most suitable design for them. It’s part of their learning stage but what about big companies? I am talking multinational companies with millions of dollars in their marketing budget. Wouldn’t they want to give just an extra pinch to their online content?

I am not talking social media or customer interaction. I will go back to the basics. The simple web usability basics that until today in 2011 I see big companies fail to deliver. What is it? It’s the content placement.

Haven’t you noticed that most if not all good designed websites and blogs put their content in the center of the page? You for sure have also noticed that your screen is so wide, but why don’t we read paragraphs where sentences start all the way from the left to the right side of your screen? The answer is that it is not good practice. It hurts the eyes of the reader and gets him lost. Maybe it would bore him and so he would give up reading what interested him in the first place. So what shall we do? Always center the main content of your website and make sure it takes 2/3 or less of the screen width because otherwise lesser people would be interested to read what you have to say.

Let me give you an example, take a look at the screen shots of HSBC Global and P&G Global Websites. It’s perfect. The content is centered and takes 2/3 or less of the screen width. It’s friendly, easy to scan and pleasing to the eye.

HSBC Global

P&G Global

So you might be thinking what all the fuss I was talking about earlier. Here comes great websites of reputable companies designed in the exact mentioned web usability technique. But it doesn’t stop here. The websites of those same companies as well as other companies fail to deliver this basic web usability rule in their local websites (HSBC Egypt & P&G Egypt). By local here, I mean the country website of Egypt (This might be the case for other country websites as well). Take a look at those shots. The content takes 2/3 or less of the screen width but for heaven’s sake why is it drifted to the left? Why isn’t the content placed in the center?

HSBC Egypt

P&G Egypt

If we take a look at few of the most popular and successful websites such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, YouTube or whichever popular website that comes to your mind, you will find that it follows this simple web usability rule. Put the content at the center and never exceed 2/3 of the screen width. Why? Because it works. 

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